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Managing Poor Performance

I’ve spoken before about how the age-old problems with performance management have refused to go away for the past 30 years and will remain for the next 30, unless we think and act differently.


Remember we create rules for the small percentage of people who break the rules no matter what those rules are. This is most obvious when it comes to trying to manage poor performance where for 30 years or more, we have tried an adversarial, rule-bound approach that the evidence indicates has fundamentally failed.


New thinking is required. I argue that poor performers can do their job they are simply choosing not to do so. I call them 2%-ers. It’s therefore not about managing their performance; it’s actually about trying to re-engage dis-engaged employees.


Next time a manager approaches you with “Carol is not performing”, I suggest you don’t blame her or start a performance improvement plan. Instead, I advocate the following 3-step process – undertaken 3 times!


  1. Check the facts. What behaviour has occurred? What rules were breached?

  2. Identify the management problem caused by this behaviour.

  3. Identify a solution to the management problem.

  4. Initially prepare a plan, then have the conversation with the 2%-er and finally create a signed summary documenting the conversation and agreement.

Now you have a process built on solving a management problem rather than telling an employee they are not performing.

This approach has worked for over 20 years and most importantly, when challenged it is deemed to be “reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way”.

Remember it’s not about poor performance; it’s actually about an individual choosing not to engage.


Based on my experience, I encourage you to consider this approach and I am happy to provide a copy of our template to anyone who is interested.

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Mark Shaw

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